Future English

I’ve been thinking a lot about the next 150 years of the English language for The Centuries Unlimited.

And then there was that “spelling pronunciation” post on tumbler that got me and some other people talking

And before you know it I’ve spent ALL DAMN DAY documenting the changes in English from 1850 to 2150. Here it is. Please tell me if you think I should change anything.

The development of American English from 1900 to 2100 is characterized by phonological simplification, a shift toward isolating sentence structure, and increase of vocabulary. Major internal influences shift from England to the Northeast to California to Black English and Spanglish to Krio. Major external influences shift from French to Spanish to Mandarin and Hindustani. Improvements literacy, radio/TV, phones, and planes tend to standardize language from 1900 to 2000 while from 2000 to 2100 descriptivism, social networks, real-time spellchecking/translation, and proxy/teleportation tend to diversify language.

Culminating in 2100, there is a trend for for people to code-switch based on whether they want to appear isolationist or internationalist. These two registers are called Inslang and Outslang. There is more divergence between spoken and written form over time in Inslang, but less in Outslang (where spelling is taken as a guide to pronunciation). A rich repertoire of signed words grows out of gestural user interfaces. Real-time voice translation makes interlectual conversation so easy that some people have developed ideolects that are incomprehensible to anyone without machine aid.

Note that many alternate forms may be used by the same people at the same point in history. The changes documented below are only trends.


1850-1950 Chicago Upper class

She came into my life like a train wreck.

/ʃi ke:m ‘ɪntə mɑɪ lɑɪf lɑɪk a tɹe:n wɹɛk/

1950-2050 Chicago Educated class

She came into my life like a train wreck.

/ʃɪ kʰejəm n̩t maə laəf laəkʰ ə tʃɹɛən ɹɜk/

2050-2150 Chicago Outslang class

‘S arrived into my life like a train wreck.

/s ɹavd n̩ʔ ma ‘lajef l̥agə tə’ɹainə ɹæʔ/

(“arrive into” meaning “come into,” since /xɜm/ <kum> has shifted in meaning to “be suddenly happy”; in the sense of “move toward speaker” is /ɹi:tʃ/ <reach>; in the sense of “finish a trip in a vehicle” it is /’aɹive/ spelled <arrive> or <‘areeve> ; in the abstract sense (legal, business, scientific) it is /komə/ spelled <come> or /come/.)

(“life” meaning a person’s life; biological life is /’laifə/ spelled <laife> or <life>)

(“train,” also spelled <teraine>, meaning the machine: a moving group of linked things is a /tʃeẽ/ spelled <train>, homophonous with <chain>, a time train as a machine is a “shíchē“, and as a location is a “kaal teraine“)



Unvoiced word-initial stop affrication.

tV > tsV > sV

kV > kxV>xV

pV > pɸV >ɸV

Word-initial stop devoicing.

d > tV

gV > kV

bV > pV

Intervocalic stop voicing and tapping.

Vt/dV > VdV > VrV

Vk/gV > VgV > VʔV

Vp/bV > VbV > VwV

Word-final stop glottalization

Vt/d/k/h/p/b > Vʔ

Word-final sibilent metathesis

Vs/z/ʃ/ʒ+t/d/k/g/p/b > Vt/d/k/g/p/b+s/z/ʃ/ʒ


tj > tʃ

dj > dʒ

kj > x

gj > ɣ

pj > ɸ

bj > β

R-effected stop affrication and R-deletion

tɹ̠ > tʃɹ̠ > tʃ

dɹ̠ > dʒɹ̠ > dʒ

kɹ̠ > kxɹ̠ > kx

gɹ̠ > gɣɹ̠ > gɣ

pɹ̠ > pɸɹ̠ > pɸ

bɹ̠ > bβɹ̠ > bβ

Voiceless-stop-effected nasal syllabication and stop deletion




Final R dropping


Final L dropping

Vl > V(backing)

Detalization of labiodental fricatives

θ/ð > t/d

Velar nasals labiolization

Vŋ > n

Word-final Nasalization



iː ɪ > e, iN uː > ʉ ʊ > ʌ

ɛ > æ, ɪjəN ə ɔː > a

æ > jæ, ejəN ʌ > ɜ ɑː, ɔ > a

eɪ > e: aɪ,ae > ajeT, aD ɔe > ɔwə aʊ > awʌ oʊ > ewə

ɪə > ejə eə > ejə

Outslang (also used for emphasis)

Intervocalic stop devoicing

VdV > VtV

VgV > VkV

VbV > VpV

Word-final stop devoicing and affrication

Vt/d >Vt > Vts

Vk/g > Vk > Vkx

Vp/b > Vp > Vpɸ

Initial and medial R-trilling

ɹ̠V/Vɹ̠V > rV/VrV

Final R dropping


Word-initial sibilant epenthesis

s/z/ʃ/ʒ > əs/ əz/əʃ/əʒ

Consonant cluster schwa-epenthesis:

stɹ̠ > əsətər


J > i

W > u


iː ɪ > I uː > u ʊ > u:

ɛ > e ə ɔː > a

æ > a ʌ > ə, u ɑ > a

eɪ > eji aɪ >aji ɔɪ > oji aʊ > awu oʊ >o

(ɪə) > ijə (eə)


In general, outslang is more conservative, but sometimes introduces novelty through calques (usually from Spanish, occasionally from Mandarin and Hindi)

Third person pronoun fusion. He/him, she/her, they/them > They > Ey/em > ‘S

Expansion of progressive aspect. Verbs become progressive by default: “He’s always doing this” rather than “He always does this.” Approaching the 2150s, this includes stative be: “He’s always being a jerk” rather than “He is a jerk.”

Progressive copula reanalysis as subject marker: “I’m walking” > “‘M walking”, “You’re getting arrested” > “‘R getting arrested,” “He’s being a jerk” > “S’ being a jerk” (subject marker is dropped when it is clear from context, e.g. “Vivek angry. Being a jerk.”

Copula drop: “‘S angry” rather than “He is angry” (implying an unintentional condition, contrasting with “‘S being angry,” which implies some intent on the actor’s part)

Subjunctive to conditional shift: “If I were to…, it would….” > “If I did…, it would…” > “If I would…, it would… > If d’…d’… (inslang), In case I’d (outslang)

Replacement of -ing genrunds with -tion nouns: “I love planning” > “I love plannification” (outslang)

“Get” Passives: “I am pleased.” > “I pleased” to indicate a state. “I get pleased” > “I getting pleased” to indicate a change in state.

Person vrs. Non-person possessive constructions: The actions of the person, the actions of the economy> The person’s actions, The actions of the economy (outslang), The economy actions (inslang)

Inanimate possessive constructions vrs Adjunct noun chains: The house of the dog (outslang) vrs. the dog house (inslang)

Relative clauses: The person who did, The rock which did> The person/rock that did> The person did

Emphatic vrs. Normal definite articles: teh, the

Analytical comparatives and superlatives: bigger, biggest > more big, most big (outslang)

Topic-introducing preposition: As far as X is concerned > As far as X > Fars X

Future forms: shall V, will V > will V, be going to V > Be gonna V > a-V (inslang), go V (outslang)

Prepositional verbs: the park around which I walk > the park I walk around

Transitive particle: I listen to music, I look at the person, I eat the sandwich > I listen’t music, I look’t the person, I eat’t the sandwich

Uncommon irregular verb regularization: (inslang)

Wed > wedded, wrought > wreaked, knelt > kneeled,

Past participle/past tense fusion: run/ran/run > run/ran/ran, come/came/come > come/came/came (outslang)

Common irregular verb reanalysis: (inslang)

-ite/-it/-it: light/lit/lit, bite/bit/bit, fight/fit/fit, glide/glid/glid

-t/-t/-t: put/put/put, fit/fit/fit, grit/grit/grit

-in/-un/-un: win/won/won, ring/rung/rung, sing/sung/sung, swim/swum/swum, bring/brung/brung, limn/lumn/lumn

-eeze, ise/-oze/-ozen: freeze/froze/frozen, squeeze/squoze/squozen, rise/rose/rosen

-ive/-ove/-ove: drive/drove/drove, dive/dove/dove, strive/strove/strove, thrive/throve/throve

eek/-uck/-uck: sneak/snuck/snuck, peek/puck/puck

ay/-aid/-aid: pay/paid/paid, lay/laid/laid

Transitive/intransitive pair collapse: lie/lay > lay, sit/set > set, rise/raise > rise

Must V (for necessities) > Have to V > Got to V > Gotta V, Need to V > Ga-V (inslang), needa V (inslang), Have it to V (outslang)

May V>might V (inslang), maybe V (outslang)

Ought to V > Should V

Might V > Should V

Would V > Used to V > Usta V > Sta-V

Would like to V > want to V > wanna V > wan-V

Be to V > Be supposed to V > sposeda V

Vocabulary 20th > 22nd

A base > a basis (outslang)

A bill (money) > a bile /bile/

A church (the building) > a chorcha

A consequence > an alternative (inslang)

A gang (criminal) > a ganga

A leader (of a work crew) > a leeder (outslang)

A life (a person’s life from birth to death) > layef /’lajef/ (inslang)

A machine (a piece of junk) > a meshin /mɜ’ʃĩ/

A machine (an impressive piece of technology) > masheen /maʃi:n/ (outslang)

A machine (pejorative for AI) > a myatcheen /’mjætʃiĩ/

A market (bazaar) > a marqueta (outslang)

A market (economics) > a market (outslang)

A market (outdoor shopping) > a margat /’ma:ʔəʔ/ (inslang)

A place > a space

A rogue (lovable) > badmash

A scene (entertainment) > staan (outslang)

A time train (a machine) > shíchē /’ʃítʃə̄/

A train (a machine on tracks) > teraine /tə’ɹainə/ (outslang)

A train (a time train as a place) > kaal masheen /ka:l ma’ʃi:n/ (outslang)

A train of (a moving group of linked things) > a train /tʃeẽ/ (inslang)

A trick on someone > a deal (inslang)

A truck (vehicle) > a troca (inslang)

Actually > to be precise (outslang)

An entertainment (small) > a timepass

An official way of doing things > an arrangement > (outslang)

Bad > okay (inslang)

Bums (pejorative for underclasses) > peeple (inslang)

Children/Kids > youth (inslang)

Coherent > consistent (outslang)

Cool (good) > queer (inslang)

Dear > baby (outslang)

Different > various (outslang)

Excess stuff > more (outslang)

Fitting > adequate (outslang)

Hopefully > eventually (outslang)

If > in case (outslang)

In the event of > in case of (outslang)

Insurance (medical, auto, etc.) > aseguranza

Life (biological life) > laife /’laifə/ (outlsang)

People > persons (inslang)

Personal > intensive (inslang)

Ridiculous > cool

Thirsty (for alcohol) > glassy /’glasi/

Time, configuration space (medium through which one travels) > kaal /ka:l/ (outslang)

To arrive > to reach (intransitive) /ɹi:tʃ/ (inslang)

To be suddenly happy > kum /xɜm/ (inslang)

To come (in an abstract sense) > come /komə/ (outslang)

To come (move toward speaker) > arrive + preposition /ɹav/ (inslang)

To cooperate with s.b. > to accord s.b. (outslang)

To define > to establish (outslang)

To finish a trip in a vehicle > to areeve /’aɹive/ (outslang)

To go (in an abstract sense) > go /go/ (outlsnag)

To go (move away from speaker) > to depart+preposition (inslang)

To guarantee > to ensure (outslang)

To harass > to tease (inslang)

To have (possess) > to dispose of (outslang)

To have lunch (business) > to lonch (outslang)

To hurry self-importantly > to dash (inslang)

To incite > to encourage (outslang)

To inform > to debrief (outslang)

To leave > to depart (outslang)

To look > to see (outslang)

To look at > to see’t

To make sure to > to ensure that (outslang)

To modify > to amend (outslang)

To move up (a meeting) > to prepone (outslang)

To nominate > to appoint (outslang)

To provide for an eventuality > to envisage (outslang)

To reach (tr) > reach’t (transitive) /ɹi:tʃʔ/ (inslang)

To read (not for pleasure) > to see

To reduce > modulate (outslang)

To say (quotive particle) > go (S went hello!) /kewə/ (inslang)

To select s.b. > retain s.b. (outslang)

To specify > to precise (outslang)

To travel (for business) > airdash (outslang)

To turn off > to close

To turn on > to open

To watch > to see (outslang)

Unfortunate > global (inslang)

Thanks animate-mush, official-data, tropylium, and Nikolay Kilyachkov,


See also David Peterson’s and Justin B. Rye’s much better future Englishes!


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